Blog Archives

Unused Random Scifi Gear Ideas

These are ideas I was pitching to various publishers/producers in 2017, which never got picked up by anyone. These are taken directly from my pitches, when I was asked to come up with examples, or a set number of ideas, for an article or book.

Class It Up: A hood worn during travel that makes it appear you are in first class, with more room and better entertainment. Deluxe models include neurostimulents that let you think you are stretching your legs, while you hunker into a kind of low-footprint fetal position. This is standard for some air travel companies.

DyeNA: Injection that permanently alters your hair, skin, or eye pigmentation

Kill Fee: A creditstick that can loan you up to 1,000 credits when you press the button—and get a neurotoxin injected. the Kill Fee doesn’t add the money until it’s injector confirms you are you (through DNA) and that you are subject to the neurotoxin (not immune). Every 30 days you must make a payment to the company backing the Kill Fee equal to 5% of the amount loaned, or you lose 1 Constitution. If you manage to pay off the entire loan, you are given the antidote.

MoTats: Injected luminescent nannite tattoos that swim just beneath the skin, allowing your tattoos to moving in flowing patterns over your body, and chance their appearance.

Olfacticator: A device that records your brainwaves when you smell something, and can play that smell back to your or any other brain. Can also come with pre-programmed scents you can play at will, and even Odor Operas.

Self-Censor: A microchip implanted in the eye with a lead to the brain, that reads your response to anything you find gross or unpleasant or offensive, and covers your view of such things with a censor bar (or in some cases covers it with with cartoons, or cat memes, or even ads if you get a free one sponsored by an ad company)

SEPA: “Structural Engineering Pocket Analyzer” Hooked to any camera or smart communication device, it analyzed the objects in your environment and makes an educated guess about hardness, HP, and break DCs.

Walkaway: A small sphere the size of a golfball. Can make the sounds and vibrations equal to a person walking, with the speed of the walk automatically matching how quickly it is rolled along a surface.

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Starfinder HyperMall: GoTo

The HyperMall is an InfoSphere Commerce company that sells extremely cheap, but modestly useful, items in bulk to vending companies on worlds with Hyperspace travel. The HyperMall has literally hundreds of millions of items available for order, so many travelers enjoy downloading their virtual catalog and clicking through it on long, dull hyperspace trips.

HyperMall items are all Level 0 minor items that cost 1 credit (or you can buy 120 of them for 100 credits), and have negligible bulk unless noted otherwise. However, crafting any HyperMall item takes 10 UPBs… a fact that frustrates armchair economists and bespoke crafters. HyperMall items are not robust enough to have a major effect on gameplay. Essentially, none of these items have any Strength, damage, hardness, HP, or game-mechanical effect.

(Art by artbase)

GoTo (Technological item): A GoTo is among the most popular brand-name of Smart Data Compilers. By itself, it largely does nothing (though many come with games and basic local InfoSphere access). However, a GoTo can be synced to a theoretically-infinite number of other devices you own and have on your person, so compile and organize the data they offer. Most users begin by syncing their comm links, and then add more and more items as they enjoy the convenience.
Syncing an item to a GoTo takes 10 minutes, root access to the device to be added, and requires a Computers check with a DC equal to 5 + double the number of items already synced. If you fail this check by 5 or more, the new item IS synced, but a randomly selected previously synced item is removed from sync without any notification. Generally you don’t realize an item is removed from sync until you try to use it.
A GoTo can be placed in an armor upgrade slot, be added to any head/eye system cybernetic, or be held. Either way, it allows you to use all items on your person that give you information (such as scanners, comm links, computers, and so on), though you cannot access any function that requires an attack roll or skill check other than Perception, or that forces a target to make a saving throw. However, whenever you use it to make Perception check that you cannot take 10 on, a natural 1 on the die is both an automatic failure, and randomly removes a device from sync.
Despite the glitchiness of GoTos, they remain extremely popular among the techneratti. Indeed there are advanced models that can cost hundreds or even thousands of credits more… and function exactly the same way (but with better style and branding). Some social scientists fear the constant use of GoTo devices is eroding person-to-person relationships on a number of worlds.

Adventure Seed: A new GoTo program, free-to-download, claims to fix de-syncing issues. It is actually a hybrid curse, that causes anyone who uses their GoTo for more than 8 hours in a row to become a borai, and after 8 more hours a ghoul.
Within a few days, entire cities may fall to this necromantic viral app.

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Starfinder HyperMall: Chromat

The HyperMall is an InfoSphere Commerce company that sells extremely cheap, but modestly useful, items in bulk to vending companies on worlds with Hyperspace travel. The HyperMall has literally hundreds of millions of items available for order, so many travelers enjoy downloading their virtual catalog and clicking through it on long, dull hyperspace trips.

HyperMall items are all Level 0 minor items that cost 1 credit (or you can buy 120 of them for 100 credits), and have negligible bulk unless noted otherwise. However, crafting any HyperMall item takes 10 UPBs… a fact that frustrates armchair economists and bespoke crafters. HyperMall items are not robust enough to have a major effect on gameplay. Essentially, none of these items have any Strength, damage, hardness, HP, or game-mechanical effect.

Chromat (Hybrid Item): A chromat is a short penlike object that functions as a 1-shot fashion redesign device. Using a chromat takes 10 minutes, and requires you have sole control of the item to be affected. The item selected must be something you could wear or carry. It’s style, symbology, and color scheme are altered to match your general style, in much the way weapons with weapon fusions are altered. You do not have precise control over the new style and coloration (though it generally matches your preferred style, or if you prefer any 1 item you already have personalized and is present). You cannot duplicate any specific uniform, symbol or gear using a chromat. Once used, a chromat is expended, and the purely-cosmetic changes to made to the item you used it on are permanent.

Adventure Seed: Someone is breaking into clothing stores and textile cleaning businesses, and using handfuls of chromats to alter items to look like they belong to a crazed nihilist cult. Local authorities are convinced this is a marketing stunt for a new holovid series or void-rock band, but regardless the businesses in question want the fashion-vandalism stopped.

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Starfinder HyperMall: Brimmerfloat

The HyperMall is an InfoSphere Commerce company that sells extremely cheap, but modestly useful, items in bulk to vending companies on worlds with Hyperspace travel. The HyperMall has literally hundreds of millions of items available for order, so many travelers enjoy downloading their virtual catalog and clicking through it on long, dull hyperspace trips.

HyperMall items are all Level 0 minor items that cost 1 credit (or you can buy 120 of them for 100 credits), and have negligible bulk unless noted otherwise. However, crafting any HyperMall item takes 10 UPBs… a fact that frustrates armchair economists and bespoke crafters. HyperMall items are not robust enough to have a major effect on gameplay. Essentially, none of these items have any Strength, damage, hardness, HP, or game-mechanical effect.

Brimmerfloat (Hybrid Item): A brimmerfloat is peaked circle of cloth with an enchantment giving it a very, very slight negative gravity and a tiny gyro in it’s wire outer circumference, causing it to float gently upwards using a built-in, nonchargeable microbattery. It can be tethered to the top of your head, turning into a hands-free umbrella. It’s not string enough to float upward when being hit by rain, but will remain level in typical rain, sitting atop wherever you clipped its tether. The process that allows it to resist gravity has only 8 hours of effectiveness, though its not used up when the cloth is folded up. After 8 hours of use, it’s just a thin piece of cloth. Brimmerfloats are most often sold by vending-drones at posts and travel terminals during rainy weather, for people arriving from less wet locations who didn’t think to bring a more permanent umbrella options.
Catalog Code: H01Br@!67F22P[p]678413YSK

Adventure Seed: One bimmerfloat has no game mechanical effect. But a fight in a warehouse with crates of tens of thousands of them could cause any missed attack to break open a crate to form clouds of slowly expanding, spinning, lifting umbrella-tops that may give concealment between different altitudes.

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PF2 Alchemical Items: Emetics

Yep, I’m writing about the power of puke. For the 2nd edition Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

EMETIC Item 1+
Alchemical Consumable Elixir Healing
Usage held in 1 hand; Bulk L
Activate Single Action [Interact]
An emetic makes you nauseous. Drinking a dose when not sickened gives you the sickened condition with a value equal to the emetic’s potency. When you are sickened, a successful DC 15 Fortitude save allows you to imbibe the emetic despite the sickened condition. Rather than increase your sickened value, this gives you a bonus to Fortitude saves to recover from being sickened when you choose to retch. This bonus to equal to the emetic’s potency.

Emetic (Lesser) Item 1
Price 2 gp
Bulk L
This emetic has a potency of 4.

Emetic (Moderate) Item 6
Price 20 gp
Bulk L
This emetic has a potency of 5.

Emetic (Greater) Item 10
Price 110 gp
Bulk L
This emetic has a potency of 6.

Emetic (Major) Item 14
Price 455 gp
Bulk L
This emetic has a potency of 6. Additionally when you successfully retch to reduce the value of your sickened condition, you reduce it by 1 more than normal.

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Starting With Ideas: Really Wild West “Oddities” (for Starfinder)

Fairly often, I get asked how I START a big project. Like, if I know I want a chapter of magic items for the Really Wild West, where would I begin organizing my thoughts and planning that out?

Assuming the pagination and wordcounts was already done by someone else, I’d start with ideas.

Especially for a series of elements using the same basic rules subsystem (such as the features of one character class, a series of magic items for one campaign, feats, spells, new superpowers, whatever), I like to start the conceptual work by spitballing ideas to myself. This isn’t an effort to create completed rules elements yet, just to begin filling out what kinds of ideas I want those rules elements to cover.

There are numerous advantages to this for me. First, I can begin to hash out a tone and flavor for the section. Second, I find it easier to figure out how to use rules to model concepts if I have several of those concepts already in a hopper. Third, often coming up with interesting ideas is the important part of a project for me.  I can’t do it all in one sitting. By making a list early on, I give myself time to iterate, modify, and even reconsider if I need to.

After I have a fair percentage of the ideas I think I need, I’ll go back and begin turning the ones I like best into full rules elements. this lets me see how much wordcount those take up, which lets me know how many ideas I’ll need to fit the space.*

*(Unless the project is based on a specific number of items– like a list of 100 NPC catchphrases or 2 things to do in a dungeon when you’re dead, in which case I still like this process but the thing I learn at this stage is if I need to modify how much info I am putting in each entry to the pre-determined number of items will fill up the pre-determined wordcount. IN this case the feedback loop may be more likely to tell me if my concepts need to change to be more of less detailed.)

I often do ideas in three big waves–when I first start a project, when I run out of those ideas I started with, and when I have a good idea how many ideas I’ll need to finish it. Sometimes one or more of those waves isn’t needed–occasionally I find my first brainstorm gave me everything that will fit, for example. I also jot down ideas as they come to me when I am working on other parts of the work, or even other projects.

So, what do I mean by spitballing ideas?

I just want some sense of what the item is going to be. Maybe a name, maybe a description. If I have some idea of how the rules for the idea should work, I jot that down.

Here’s an example of those spitball ideas (cleaned up to a standard format for presentation on its own, rather than as notes only I will see). These are concepts for “Oddities,” magic items that occur as a result of weird events and energies, rather than being created intentionally, for my Really Wild West setting. Each of these gives enough info to see how it might work in game, but doesn’t yet worry about things like item level, cost, and any special rules Oddities may have as opposed to typical magic items.

RWW Glass Eye

(Art by i-pciture. Of the Eye by the Witch Hazel Pentafaust)

01. Weathered copy of a leather-bound book titled “Diplomacy Through Other Means.” It has hardness 20, 20 hp, and can be used as a light simple melee weapon dealing 1d4 damage (+1d4 per 4 ranks of Culture you have). You can’t add Strength (or any other any ability score modifiers) to damage dealt, but do add you ranks in Culture.

02. Pearl-Handled corkscrew. When screwed into people (normally a full round action that requires they be restrained and which deals 1-2 hp) it forces them to reveal their name, even if they don’t know it themselves.

03. Small hourglass filled with dark blue sand. If flipped and allowed to run normally without being moved, when it goes off it casts a random summon creature (or a random spell level) which no one has any control over. It lasts 1 hour if not otherwise damaged or dispelled.

04. Single old scarf about a yard long, with a smoke stain near top. Does not conduct heat (but can burn), thus can be used as perfect oven mitt or grant fire resist 20 for a thing you touch with it.

05. Zippo lighter with the kanji for “stork” on the side. If used to illuminate a written word medium (scroll, book, so on), the text within it slowly scrolls by in the shadow created by the flame.

06. Wire-frame glasses. If kept tucked in a pocket, halves falling damage for possessor.

07. Stained paper map of Fort Harrison, Indiana, from 1823. If mis-folded and then opened, it creates a fog cloud (as the spell). The map itself is always torn free by a gust of wind that brings in the fog, and normally takes (4d4 – 1d4) x 10 minutes to find.

08. An 1888 John J. Loud ball point pen with green ink. Rapidly (and loudly) clicking the pen gives a +5 bonus to Perception checks, but only against people using Stealth.

09. Small box of “Court Orlock” brand safety matches. If thrown at someone within 15 feet they must make a Will save (DC equal to the touch attack roll to hit them) or spend 1 round picking up the matches. Has 1d4 uses per day.

10. Wicker Picnic Basket, with its own plates, cutlery, and stacking cups as service for 6. If loaded with food and taken out of any settlement and then used for an hourlong or longer picnic, the ort remaining can be interpreted as a diving device. It may act as augurydivination, or commune, as randomly determined by the GM. One of the picnic participants will then have an encounter within 1 week of a high enough CR that average treasure for that encounter would pay for a spell gem of the divination spell gained. The basket don’t work again until the creature using them has had this encounter, which doesn’t have any actual treasure associated with it.

11. Tortoiseshell make-up compact. Anyone who has the powder from the compact (requiring an successful EAC attack against an adjacent creature) blown on them is slowed (as the spell) for 1 minute, and the person who used it is slowed for 10 minutes. Only a creature not slowed can use it.

12. Dried pea. If placed up your nose, it grants a +4 bonus to saving throws against poison, and a successful save always ends the poison. Someone who knows you have it up there can get you to shoot it out with a successful dirty trick maneuver (replacing the normal options for dirty trick).

13. Cork table coaster. Anything placed on it doesn’t experience any passage of time as long nothing else is touching it but air. This DOES keep drinks cold (or hot) much longer, but it also prevents fruit from spoiling, dynamite from exploding, radioactive isotopes from decaying, and so on.

14. Wooden, obviously-toy pistol. When pointed at an animal and the trigger pulled, causes the animal to talk randomly in French for 1 round. There is a 10% chance the first time it  is used each day the animal says something useful and relevant to the user holder.

15. Worn leather coin purse. As long as nothing but coins are stuffed into it there does not seem to be a limit how many fit in, but they can only be added or removed at a rate of 4 credits per round.

16. Tablecloth-sized parchment with complex diagram for an unidentified steam engine. If placed on a stationary, prone creature the piping diagram changes to represent the organs (and injuries) or that creature, granting a +5 bonus to Medicine checks with that creature.

17. Old-style iron key. Fits in any lock. Can’t unlock a lock, but can lock it. If it was already locked, the next person to touch it takes 1 point of electricity damage.

18. Small pot of glossy black lipstick. Never runs out. The first time each day someone wearing the lipstick is damaged by an attacker the wearer has not ever damaged, the wearer may kiss a weapon. That weapon delivers critical hit effects (but not critical hit damage) against that attacker the first time it successfully hits and damages the attacker.

19. A granite die with 20 sides, numbered 7-26. Anyone with this on their person is lucky (gain one reroll each day, rerolling after you see the result of a roll and taking the better of the two results) except in games of chance (always roll twice and take the worst result for all games of chance).

20. Carved whalebone whistle. If blown directly in someone’s ear is heals them for 1d8+1 damage, and they are deafened for 1 hour per hp healed. If the deafness is removed early, the healing is also removed. It cannot heal someone temporarily deaf from this effect. The healing appears to be the revelation the wound wasn’t that bad to begin with — there’s never any actual sign of improved health. A person cannot benefit from this again until after they next expend 1 RP to regain SP after a 10-minute rest.

21. The Sinister Glass Eye of the Witch Hazel Pentafaust. This cracked, yellow glass eye spins and looks about of its own accord. When held in a closed fist, it causes you to be shaken (despite any immunities you might have) and automatically be able to identify any spell you see being cast.

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Knackhacks — Consumable access to tricks and exploits for Starfinder.

So, we’ve increased access to spells withspell guns and runethrowers, and then hex rounds and wandshells. Which might leave spellcasting classes saying :”Hey, those are our class features! It’s not like we can buy a potion of operative exploits!”

But in a galaxy with mnemonic enhancers, why CAN’T get you other some class features as 1-shot consumable items?

Introducing Knackhacks.

Knackhack(art by meenkulathiamma)

Knackhacks                               Item         Credit
Item                                            Level         Cost        Bulk
Knackhack, 2nd-level knack          3             325         L
Knackhack, 6th-level knack           7             750         L
Knackhack, 10th-level knack       11          3,250         L
Knackhack, 14th-level knack       15        17,500         L

Knackhacks
Knackhacks are 1-shot, consumable hybrid cyberdivinations that interface with armor to grant temporary access to techniques and abilities referred to as “prowesses.” A prowess may be a biohacker theorem, envoy improvisation, mechanic trick, operative exploit, or soldier gear boost. There are limitations to which of these prowesses you can use.

A knackhack slots into an otherwise-empty armor upgrade slot. It takes a full round to insert or remove a knackhack, but there’s no skill check or equipment required. A knackhack can only contain a prowess available to a character with a class level lower than the knackhack‘s item level. The prowess operates with a character level equal to the knackhack‘s item level. You can only benefit from one knackhack at a time.

The prowess granted by a knackhack cannot have a Resolve Point cost. It also cannot be on that requires or modifies a class feature or piece of equipment you do not have. For example, a character with no levels in biohacker could not use a knackhack to gain prowess with the theorems of field dressing (which requires a custom microlab) or hampering inhibitor (which requires the ability to use basic inhibitors). However, a non-biohacker character could gain prowess with painful injection, strange anatomy, toxic skin, treat condition, or treatment mastery. (By the same token a biohacker could use a knackhack to gain access to field dressing as a prowess.)

If the prowess has a limited number of uses (per day or other time period), or a limited number of uses that reset when you expend a Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest, then you gain a single use of it with the knackhack (taking whatever action the prowess normally takes), and it is then expended. If it is an ability that grants passive bonuses or van be used at will, it takes a standard action to activate the knackhack, and then the prowess is available for 1 minute.

You cannot create a knackhack unless you have the prowess it grants.

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Hex Rounds and Wandshells for Starfinder

Yesterday we presented spell guns and runethrowers, magic devices that can produce spell effects from battery power. The next obvious question is — can you have magic bullets that produce spell effects?

Of course you can. Presenting: Magic Muntions!

Magic Bullet
(art by Yuri Hoyda)

Magic Munitions                     Item       Credit
Item                                            Level      Cost       Bulk
Hex round, 0-level spell          2             140           L
Wandshell, 0-level spell          3             325           L
Hex round, 1st-level spell       5             450           L
Wandshell, 1st-level spell       7             750           L
Hex round, 2nd-level spell     8          1,400           L
Wandshell, 2nd-level spell    11         3,250           L
Hex round, 3rd-level spell     11         3,700           L
Hex round, 4th-level spell      14       10,600          L
Wandshell, 3rd-level spell      15       17,500          L
Hex round, 5th-level spell      17       36,650          L
Wandshell, 4th-level spell      19       81,000          L
Hex round, 6th-level spell      20     112,800          L

Magic munitions allow you to load a one-shot, consumable version of a spell into a weapon. Any spell with a casting time of no more than 1 standard action, that does not require Resolve Points or materials with a cost, can be turned into a magic munition. Activating a magic munition is a standard action, and when you do so the weapon does not have its normal effect (and does not use any ammo or battery beyond the magic munition). The magic effect normally originates as if you had cast the spell. If the spell has a range of touch, you can instead target any legal target within the weapon’s reach of first range increment. The caster level for the spell effect is equal to the magic munition;s item level.

A hex round can only be fired from a spell gun or runethrower able to cast a spell of the same or higher level, or a weapon with the spellthrower fusion. A wandshell can be loaded into any weapon. As magic munitions these ammos can be loaded into any ranged or melee weapon, even ones not designed for physical ammunition or that are normally totally unpowered. Loading a single he round or wandshell into a weapon is a move action. A weapon can’t have more total item levels worth of magic muntions loaded into it at a time than its own item level. Thus a item level 9 laser pistol with the spellthrowing fusion could have one hex round with a 2nd-level spell, or three wandshells with 0-level spells.

Magic munitions not loaded into a weapon are easily identified as magical at a glance, of even by their unusually heavy heft. Most have the spell loaded into them carefully noted on their casing. You cannot craft a a magic munition of a specific spell unless you can cast that spell, or have someone able to cast the spell available to do so when you create the munition.

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Spellguns and Runethrowers for Starfinder

As soon as you say a setting has spellcasters and blasters, there’s a group of players who want to have spellguns. And that’s fair. After all there are numerous examples of spell-generating hybrid technology in science-fantasy fiction (my specific inspirations come from The Irregular at Magic High School and Outlaw Star, but there are many more examples).

But Starfinder doesn’t really have anything like that. There are spell ampules and spell gems… but those are 1-shot consumables, not the spellguns we want.  So I was going to post a few examples of spell guns last Friday… and realized I hadn’t written how how I figured the item level and cost of such things. So I delayed the article to today, and you get a enarly-double-length Monday article that both shows the design process I used, AND presents two sets of finished spellcasting weapons.

So how do we figure out the effective item level of a device that can cast detect magic using a battery, and how do we scale that against a baleful polymorph rifle?

Well, let’s start with something we CAN easily scale — damage. If we can find a relationship between damaging spells at each level and weapons that are roughly as effective, and spells of each level have roughly the same impact on the game as one another, that should allow us to set item levels for devices that create other spells effects of each level.

It’s best if we pick a few spells that come as close as possible to JUST doing damage at each level. We can then figure out a rough benchmark for the typical weaponlike damage each of these things does, looking back at our benchmarks for weapon damage. There’s some subjectivity there of course, but in general we can compare these to damage from weapons (treating a save and attack rolls to be about even in terms of damage-per-round options, and treating area or ongoing attacks as being 10-20% more damage for benchmark purposes) to tell us roughly what item level weapon does comparable damage.

We want two effective item levels (EIL) for each spell — one taken from the closest equivalent longarm or advanced melee weapon (representing an item used by people skilled in combat), and one taken from the closest 1-handed basic melee weapon or small arm (representing an item use by those unspecialized in combat). Those are listed with a slash as skilled/unspecialized. We’ll go into why we want those separate numbers in a moment.

Technomancer spells have the following exemplar damage spells at each spell level:

0-Level
Energy Ray (1d3, single target EAC ranged)  EIL – 0/1

1st-Level
Jolting Surge (4d6, single target EAC melee) EIL – 12/15
Overheat (2d8 energy in a cone, save for half) EIL – 11/15

2nd-Level
Caustic Conversion (4d6 energy, single target EAC ranged, ongoing damage) EIL – 13/18

3rd-Level
Arcing Surge (10d6 energy, line, save for half) EIL – 19/24
Explosive Blast (9d6 energy, radius, save for half) EIL –  19/24

Since we already hitting item level 19+ by 3rd level spells, it’s pretty clear 4th-level and higher spells would be beyond the scope of even 20th level equipment.

So, erring on the side of items that duplicate spells skewing up at lower item levels (as we not the benchmark damage for low-level weapons is a bit off, a weirdness the designers accepted so no one would actually have a weapon that did 1 point of damage), and standardizing the curve between skilled and unspecialized, we come up with the following typical item level for something that can reliable reproduce magic effects:

EIL by Spell Level
0-Level Spells: 3/8
1st-Level Spells: 11/16
2nd-Level Spells: 13/18
3rd-Level Spells: 19/24

We know from the price difference in spell gems vs spell ampules that giving a spellcaster access to more spells from their spell list is cheaper than allowing anyone to use that magic effect, so let’s use the same logic here. The lower “skilled” EIL is what we use for “Spell Guns,” which we define as only being able to be used by a character who can cast spells of the same spell level and class list as the one reproduced by the spell gun. So a microbot assault spell gun can only be used by a technomancer who can cast 2nd level spells.

The higher-level EIL we’ll use for Runethrowers. They function just like Spell Guns, except they can be used by anyone.

Also, we’ll use Small Arms proficiency for Spell Guns (so any spellcasting PC can use them), and Longarms for Runethrowers. Of course attack rolls won’t matter for all spell effects, but we’ll rule that any nonproficiency penalty you take with with a Runethrower impacts both any related save DCs, and reduces the Runethrower’s caster level.

We’re also going to ban any spells that require Resolve Points, have a casting time greater than 1 action, or require an experience material mentioned in the spell description. Otherwise each item casts a spell and works like a spell-like ability with a caster level equal to the item level, and all decisions made by whoever pulls the trigger.

So, borrowing some typical costs and battery usages from appropriate items:

Small Arms

SPELL GUNS                    Item     Credit      Spell
Name                              Level    Cost         Level   Battery  Usage
Spell Gun, Apprentice        3         1,500       0           20            2
Spell Gun, Mage               11       26,000       1           40            4
Spell Gun, Arcanist           13        52,000       2           80            8
Spell Gun, Archmage        19      600,000       3         100          10Spell Gun by info at nextmars dot com
(art by info@nextmars.com)

Longarms

RUNETHROWERS                 Item     Credit      Spell
Name                                    Level    Cost         Level   Battery  Usage
Runethrower, Neophyte       8          10,000       0           40            4
Runethrower, Warlock         16       180,000      1           80            8
Runethrower, Theurge         18       400,000      2         100            10Spell Rifle by info at nextmars dot com
(art by info@nextmars.com)

Runethrower (neophyte, Warlock, Theurge)
A runethrower is a hybrid weapon that contains a single spell of the listed level. It can convert energy from a battery into the energy needed for that spells, using a rune embedded within the weapon to provide all the eldritch control needed to create magic effects.
Only spells that can be cast in a single action or reaction can be placed in a runethrower (and always use a standard action to activate), and it must not have any Resolve Point cost or require any material with a cost (as noted in the spell description). A runethrower’s caster level is equal to its item level, and any decisions that need to be made when it creates a spell effect are decided by the user.
A runethrower can normally only have a single spell added into it. That spell can be changed to another spell of the same level by anyone with the ranks needed to craft the runethrower, at half the cost of creating a new runethrower. A runethrower can also have a additional spells of the same or lower level placed within it as Weapon Fusions (at the normal fusion cost, though it cannot be transferred from another weapon). Each weapon fusion of this type is treated as a weapon fusion with a level equal to 5 + the level of spell it contains. If a runethrower has multiple spells, the user decides which one to use each time it is activated.
Any penalty to attack rolls a character takes applies to a runethrower’s save DC, and if a character is nonproficient, that penalty also applies to the ruenthrower’s caster level when they use it.

Spell Guns (Apprentice, mage, Arcanist, Archmage)
A spell gun is a hybrid weapon that contains a single spell of the listed level. It can convert energy from a battery into the energy needed for that spells similar to a runethrower, but rather than have an internal rune that provides the directions to create a spell effect, requires an eldritch spark from the user to initiatie this conversion. Thus a character can only use a spell gun if they are of a class and level able to cast the spell contained within the spell gun (though it need not actually be a spell known).
Spell guns otherwise follow the rules for runethrowers.

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Weapon Upgrade Pricing for Starfinder

Here’s the final post for the week, playing with fun options for the weapon damage benchmarks per level for Starfinder I posted on Monday.

Since those benchmarks allow you to determine the damage of nearly any weapon at any item level (grenades and special weapons are special cases), they are half of what we need to allow you to upgrade Starfinder weapons. If you want to have your laser pistol be improved so it does more damage, just select an item level on the EAC small arms table with a benchmark that’s better than your current damage, and increase the pistol’s item level to match.

The big question left, of course, is “how much does that cost?”

Enter the Weapon Upgrade Pricing chart.

To determine the cost of such an upgraded weapon, find the first value on the chart that is more than it’s current cost. Then go three steps down the chart from there for each increase in item level. That entry is the new value of the weapon. Pay the difference between that new value and your original value, and your weapon is upgraded. (Upgrading a weapon requires the same time, resources, and skill at building a weapon of the new item level from scratch).

SF Dull Revolver

SF Revolver

(art by 3droman)

For example: Carl has a 5th level wyrmling dragon rifle, a longarm which does 1d8 fire damage and costs 3,020 credits. But his character is 7th level, has money to spare, and he wants to upgrade the weapon. Looking at the benchmark table, he sees that if he upgrades his longarm to 7th level, it’ll do 2d6 damage. Much better!

His friend Ali the mechanic has the ranks and tools to do the upgrade. All Carl needs to know is the price.

Looking at the Upgrade Pricing Chart, he sees the first value higher than 3,020 is 3,250. Since he increased two item levels he needs to go six steps down the chart, which is 7,000 credits. Since his weapon currently has a value of 3,020, he needs to pay the difference — 3,980 credit (likely in UPBs) to get the weapon upgraded.

Weapon Upgrade Pricing Chart
Credits
100
250
400
500
750
1000
1,175
1,350
1,500
1,750
2,000
2,250
2,500
2,750
3,250
3,750
4,125
4,500
5,250
6,000
7,000
8,000
9,000
10,000
11,000
12,500
14,000
15,500
17,000
19,000
21,000
23,000
26,000
30,000
34,000
38,000
42,500
47,000
52,000
60,500
69,000
78,000
92,000
106,000
120,000
140,000
160,000
180,000
210,000
240,000
270,000
310,000
350,000
400,000
465,000
530,000
600,000
700,000
800,000
900,000
1,050,000
1,200,000
1,500,000

You can also use the chart to estimate the cost of other kinds of equipment such as armor and even magic items… but that’s a different article!

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